Professor Lucy Nalbandian
When CSUN Accounting Alumnus, Lucy Nalbandian was asked to serve as a Clinic Faculty for the CSUN VITA Clinic this season, she knew it was an exciting offer she could not refuse. The facilitators at the VITA Clinic, CSUN’s cost-free income tax assistance service, knew Nalbandian was the perfect fit for the position because she served as a VITA Clinic student volunteer in 1991. The professor, who is no stranger to tax, says she remembers her positive experience with VITA and is pleased to pass it on to incoming students.
“I jumped at the opportunity because I was already familiar with what the program offers, as well as the goals of the program,” she said.
She remembers her work with VITA as thrilling and says volunteering also helped with her taxation courses, just as it supplements the current students’ courses. Nalbandian recalls her long hours spent with the Clinic as a student and just how far the program has come.
“I remember being at school during winter break spending eight-hour days learning tax law. At that time, we did taxes by hand with a pencil. When all was reviewed, we would then go over our work with a pen! Twenty years later, everything is done electronically, so we are able to reach more tax payers and handle more difficult tax returns.”
Upon graduating from CSUN in 1992, Nalbandian pursued a successful career in taxation at a leading accounting firm, Deloitte. She then worked for Health Net and Syncor International Corporation followed by consulting for various Fortune 500 companies, including Walt Disney. She enjoyed her consulting work because of the flexibility it offered for her family. However, at some point in her career she craved a change of pace, and realized how much she loved interacting with people.
Nalbandian said, “I love getting up in front of the class, teaching and working together. The classroom really is an amazing environment full of growth, learning, excitement, and hard work. Just to see all of the vigor and enthusiasm in the students is motivating and powerful.”
Not only does she bring her enthusiasm to the program, but she is also helpful to her students in countless ways. Nalbandian says she was surprised to find that students actually approached her during the semester with their gratitude.
As the CSUN Vita Clinic Faculty, she supervises 270 student volunteers spread out at all eight VITA sites. She trains incoming students on the tax software that the clinic utilizes, “TaxWise”, including e‐filing training, and quality assurance procedures. Learning the software program helps students in the future to be able to work with other tax software used in the industry.
In addition to teaching her Accounting Internship class, she is also responsible for monitoring any and all tax alerts from the IRS to the VITA Clinic. During tax season, she regularly visits all the sites to ensure proper procedures are followed by the volunteers, and serves as a resource for the preparers, supervisors and lead supervisors. During the semester, she also regularly sends out her “Tax Tips of the Week” to answer common questions students may have in order to maximize their instructional class time. But, Nalbandian stresses that she could not have done all of this on her own.
“I was very fortunate to work with Dr. Rafi Efrat in the program, Director of the CSUN VITA Clinic. His leadership, professionalism, and focused vision made it possible to achieve success in the revamp of the VITA Clinic and be able to reach extraordinary goals. We also had two devoted coordinators in the VITA office that worked tirelessly to make sure the programs’ goals were met. (Ara Kiledjian, Supervisor of Operations) and Victor Mendez (VITA Coordinator).”
One of her favorite features of VITA for taxpayers is the Clinic’s sophisticated website where the public can make appointments at any location at their preferred time with special requests, such as translation. Nalbandian is also fluent in Spanish which, she says, gave her the ability to help many more taxpayers.
Nalbandian says that even when tax season is over with, “We are always teaching and always learning because there are very different tax payers that come with different situations and unique scenarios.”